Switchman claims cancer from benzene exposure

Ann Knef May 22, 2006, 9:08am

Former Alton & Southern Railway Company switchman Thomas Fields claims he developed acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) as a result of work-related exposure to benzene and diesel exhaust.

According to the lawsuit filed May 12 in St. Clair County Circuit Court, Fields worked for the railroad from 1968 to 1980. He states he was diagnosed with AML -- a fast-growing cancer of the blood and bone marrow -- in October 2003.

Fields is represented by Thomas E. Schwartz of Holloran & Schwartz in St. Louis.

He is seeking in excess of $100,000 for violations of the Federal Employers' Liability Act and the Locomotive Inspection Act.

"Plaintiff suffered severe and permanent bodily injury," the complaint states, "he has incurred medical bills, and will continue to incur medical bills in the future; he has lost wages and will continue to lose wages in the future;

"The injuries he suffered are debilitating, permanent and progressive; he has suffered pain and will continue to suffer pain in the future; he has suffered in his ability to work, labor, and enjoy ordinary pursuits of life."

The complaint alleges, among other things, that the railroad is negligent for not providing a safe place to work, for not limiting the plaintiff's exposure to hazardous substances, for failing to satisfy contemporary industrial and relevant government safety standards and for failing to provide appropriate safety garments and/or equipment.

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